On a day when overcast morning skies transformed into a breezy, sunny afternoon, Warwickshire put this game out of the reach of Essex by compiling a massive 517 all out and taking the important wicket of Alastair Cook.
With Somerset well on top against Yorkshire and bottom of the table Notts struggling against Kent, both the Division One title and the identity of the only team to be relegated came closer to being decided.
Warwickshire owed much to a maiden century from Matt Lamb who went on to score 173. Dom Sibley, Sam Hain and captain Jeetan Patel all recorded half centuries as Essex struggled with little luck. Simon Harmer toiled for one ball short of 60 overs for his six wickets.
Warwickshire , who came into the game missing seven players ill or injured plus Chris Woakes on England duty, will probably be content if they only draw this game. Their points advantage over Notts at the bottom is getting close to the maximum available from the last two games.
Essex will be hoping that either Yorkshire or the weather prevent what looks like a probable Somerset win down at Taunton.
At the start of the day, Sam Hain added only five to his overnight 77 before edging a full length ball from Porter to Dan Lawrence in the slips. He and Matt Lamb had added 150.
At least for the moment, the pressure was on Warwickshire and Michael Burgess didn’t last long. He edged Jamie Porter and was brilliantly caught low down at second slip by Simon Harmer for 5. Ethan Brookes on debut found Harmer too much for him, edging to short leg where Bopara took the catch – 297-6.
Henry Brookes decided to counter-attack, avenging his brother’s downfall with a couple of boundaries. In fact, he looked every inch the batsman with confident shots all round the wicket, demonstrating that he should probably should have come in ahead of his brother.
To the great delight of the local fans, Lamb reached his maiden hundred, scored off 211 balls.
Many have felt that, with so many injured players out of contention for selection at different stages, Lamb should have had more chances to show what he can do. At a members’ forum earlier in the season, coach Jim Troughton observed that he was not a vegetarian and had no prejudice against Lamb! Despite this, the current game is just Lamb’s ninth in all formats this year. In the Warwickshire system since age nine, maybe now at age 23, the time has come for him to claim a regular place in the team.
Ravi Bopara had Lamb caught in the slips and was not best pleased at the signal of no ball Judging from the body language, umpire Nick Cook’s’s response was: “Best not to overstep.” Bopara probably thought that it was a case of “too many Cooks.”
This piece of good fortune enabled Lamb and Brookes to go into lunch at 360-6, on 106 and 33 respectively, their stand worth 63.
After lunch, Porter and Cook both had confident appeals turned down. Then Lamb was dropped at slip off Porter, started to walk thinking the catch had been held and saw the stumps thrown down. After some consultation, the decision was not out and Lamb battled on. He was on 111 – an unlucky figure for Essex.
There were plenty of other near-misses for Essex – edges that didn’t quite go to hand. But the pair brought up their 100 stand. With the sun shining and the pitch settling down nicely, Essex were struggling to maintain their chances of staying in the game. Some casual running by Brookes that left him short of his ground came to their aid. But by this time, Brookes had made a valuable 46 and Warwickshire were already beyond 400.
Jeetan Patel saw Lamb past his 150 in a stand of 66. The introduction of Dan Lawrence as the eighth bowler gave further evidence of Essex’s struggles, with the Bears going to tea at 468-7.
Early in the last session, Matt Lamb’s marathon effort came to an end when he hit Ravi
Bopara to Harmer at mid-wicket. Lamb had batted for 371 balls and all of seven hours, hitting 25 fours.
Harmer took a well-deserved fifth wicket when he had Oliver Hannon-Dalby lbw.
That was not the end of Essex’s toils. They paid the last wicket pair of Patel and teenage university student George Garrett the compliment of taking the new ball but Garrett, who is 21 years younger than his captain, showed that he knows which end of the bat to hold. He and Patel added 38 for the last wicket before Harmer took his sixth wicket when Wheater stumped Garrett. Patel was unbeaten on 51.
In the 14 overs left of the day, Alastair Cook and Nick Browne made a confident start until Cook edged Jeetan Patel to Dom Sibley in the slips.
At 31-1, Essex will start the third day still 486 runs behind and with only a minimal chance of the win they need. If Warwickshire can achieve at least a draw, they will be almost certain to avoid the relegation they have feared all season whilst a win and a Notts defeat would ensure their safety.